First-Time Travelers

Tips for First-Time Travelers

There are many things for first-time travelers to consider. The general rule thumb is if you truly need it while you are traveling, take it with you; otherwise, leave it home.

General Packing Tips


  • When considering what to take abroad with you, think in terms of “can’t live without” rather than “just in case.” Don’t take anything irreplaceable (e.g., jewelry with sentimental value).
  • Do not pack more than you can carry on your own!  Pack your bags and try to carry them once around the block.  If you cannot manage, remove some items and repack!
  • Leave space in your suitcases for things you may want to buy at your destination and bring home with you.
  • You can buy basic personal care items (shampoo, soap, etc.) in your host country.  Don’t take along excessive amounts of these types of items unless there is a particular brand that you cannot live without.
  • Remember to pack a converter and adapter if necessary for your electronics. It is recommended that you buy things like straightening irons and hair dryers in your country due to the change in currency (adapters do not tend to work well with these products).


  • The type of clothing you pack will depend on the climate of the destination(s) to which you will be traveling.  Check the monthly average temperatures/rainfall for your destination(s) to get an idea of what kind of weather you should expect during your time there.
  • Pack mostly practical items for your time abroad—washable clothes that you can wear for many occasions, comfortable shoes, etc. Avoid packing clothes that require ironing or dry cleaning.

Carry On vs. Checked Luggage

  • Do not pack any essentials or valuables (e.g., medicines, jewelry, cash) in your checked luggage.  Keep all these things with you in your carry-on luggage.
  • Carry a change of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a washcloth, and facial cleanser in your carry-on bag.  If you discover that your checked luggage is lost or delayed after you arrive on-site, you will feel better if you are at least able to freshen up and put on something clean!

Arrival in Country

Trying to navigate an unfamiliar airport can be particularly confusing if you are alone and jet-lagged.  Here are some tips to help you navigate arrival:

  • Most airports are well-marked with signs designed to help orient visitors.  Pay attention to the signs and welcome announcements.
  • If you need help, go to the nearest information desk and ask for directions. Most information desk attendants speak several languages, including English. 
  • Be on the lookout for the baggage claim area.  Try to collect your bags as promptly as possible after arrival.
  • Have a transportation plan:
    • If you are meeting someone at the airport, set a pre-determined spot to meet them
    • If you need to take a bus/taxi to your orientation site
      • Go to the information desk or official taxi stand to find a reputable taxi
      • If someone approaches you about a ride, do not take their offer, as they may not be a licensed taxi and/or may be a scammer or thief
  • Notify your family/friends that you have arrived safely.